The Christmas Gift
Do not let the title of The Christmas Gift misguide you into thinking this book is only good during the holidays. Granted some plot points revolve around Christmas gifts and the story winds up nicely during the holiday season, but it’s more background flavor than content.
Jack Princeton realizes that even though the wounds he received in battle are healing, he’ll always be lame. He also realizes that the woman who has been caring for him has delusions of love and marriage, so he decides to escape society. Later, his friends, Alex and Tony, find him in a falling-down estate in Yorkshire. Rather than letting him freeze or starve to death during the coming winter they drag him home with them. There he becomes reacquainted with Alex’s cousin Patricia Haydon. Patricia knew Jack before his university days, when he and Alex and several other friends, known as “the six,” spent the summer with her. She’s shocked at how bitter and cynical Jack has become. She decides to show him life could be worse and gets Alex to wrangle an invitation to Lord Renwick’s estate for Christmas. For if Jack can see how successful Renwick (another member of the six) is despite his blindness, maybe he won’t feel so sorry for himself.
Several things go wrong once they reach Renwick’s. For starters Miss Templeton, the woman who became smitten and smothering while nursing Jack, finds out about the party and follows in attempt to win Jack’s heart. Jack finds himself pursued by several local girls as well. Miles, another of the six, flirts with Patricia, giving Jack the wrong impression of their relationship, and leads to the dreaded Big Misunderstanding.
I liked Patricia and Jack. Patricia never lets Jack’s grouchy mood and rudeness get the better of her and gives is as good as she gets. Nor does she let others’ opinions about what is appropriate get in the way of doing what is right for Jack. His grumpiness gets old quickly, but his rudest behavior is short-lived, and he shows amazing restraint when it comes to Miss Templeton – who cannot take a simple hint that he is not interested.
I enjoyed The Christmas Gift, but did take issue with the plethora of characters and plots. The love story between secondary characters Lady Blackburne and Lord Hayworth could have been left out completely as it was unresolved. There are so many references to Lord and Lady Renwick’s story (Taming Lord Renwick) and Lord and Lady McMurrey’s story (Lady Serena’s Surrender), that I felt lost because I hadn’t read either book. There are at least twelve characters that the reader is introduced to and asked to get involved in their stories, as well six others who play important roles, and many others are mentioned or pop on and off the stage. Considering the length of the book, Ms. Savery may have wanted to prune some characters or subplots to give more room for her leads’ romance to develop. Not that I ever doubted that Jack and Patricia loved one another, I just would’ve preferred more of their story and less of their friends.
If you’re looking for a love story between two well matched people, I recommend reading The Christmas Gift. This is a qualified recommendation, however, because in order to fully appreciate the book, it would be best to have read the preceding stories first.